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Emilie: I want to share my story because I think it breaks down barriers…


Posted on Monday, November 20, 2023, at 10:00 AM

Rep. Emilie Krasnow is more than just a state legislator – she’s also a VAL graduate! Her story is one of challenges, resilience, and self-actualization. Emilie’s life took a turn in 7th grade when her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. By 8th grade, at the age of 13, she found herself navigating a new normal after his passing, just as she was on the brink of transitioning to high school.

Despite the best efforts of her teachers during her freshman year at CVU in Hinesburg, Emilie struggled to be present in her learning. An Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) and at-home tutoring helped her sustain through her Sophomore year, but by Junior year she was contemplating dropping out. This decision was met with resistance from her education-focused family.

“I grew up in a family where everyone values education. Both of my parents held master’s degrees and both of my siblings work in higher education. It was not a decision that was received very well,” Emilie shared. “Emotionally, I just was not able to even be in school. I tried looking at boarding schools and private schools, but those didn’t work for me.” Her journey took a positive turn, however, when she discovered VAL. “My mom, who worked in high schools at the time, heard about Vermont Adult Learning, so she encouraged me to look into it and it was the only thing that worked for me at the time. It was nice to finally enjoy learning again and not feel like school was this daunting place. The teachers that I had were just so kind.”

Emilie’s experience was transformative. Working with dedicated instructors, she found a unique and supportive learning environment. VAL offered more than traditional learning methods; Emilie earned credits through retail work and community service, the latter sparking her passion for volunteering. 

When Emilie briefly resumed schooling through CVU, she thrived. She enjoyed the socialization and engaged deeply in her civics class, where she nurtured her passion for political discourse and current events. She registered to vote in class on her 18th birthday and started registering her peers. “Growing up, my father was a State Rep. from Charlotte, and so I wanted to follow in his footsteps and get other people engaged.”

While Emilie was too far behind in credits to graduate with the rest of her senior class, her newfound momentum motivated her to complete her diploma through VAL. Despite lifelong struggles with math and science, Emilie’s VAL instructors went the extra mile to provide the guidance she needed. “The VAL instructors were very patient and kind when I was going through a hard time in my life and I feel that I would not be able to be as successful now if I hadn’t gone through the High School Completion Program. 

“Part of my mom’s life’s dream for me was that I would graduate high school. At first, I thought ‘I don’t need that, I’ll be able to get a job and other things.’ But my mom said ‘No, it’s really important that you get your diploma. You don’t know what you’ll want to do, if you want to go to college etc.,’” Emilie recalled. “She pushed me hard and I stayed with it, and I just remember the joy that I saw in her and felt for myself when I finally got that piece of paper. My mom is no longer here, but she raved about the education I received and the fact that there was such a program for someone who was struggling with traditional learning environments and needed time to get over the finish line. The patience and kindness I received was really important. I felt fully supported every step of the way.”

Emilie’s commitment to education did not stop with a high school diploma, however. Internships, fellowships, and further studies at CCV and Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business followed, and, indeed following in her father’s footsteps, she entered the world of politics. 

Today, Emilie serves as a legislator representing South Burlington. She visits high schools and colleges, sharing her unconventional educational path as proof that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to success. 

“I want to share my story because I think it breaks down barriers for folks,” Emilie said of her outreach work. “I get a lot of shock that I dropped out of high school.” Emilie credits VAL for shaping her journey and creating opportunities for others facing similar challenges in traditional learning environments. “I’m grateful for VAL that there was a program free of charge for folks to access high-quality education with caring and compassionate teachers and other students.” 

© Vermont Adult Learning

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